Alright, moving on to tips that require a bit of cash and preparation, starting with priority screening programs.
In the United States, the TSA’s PreCheck program is the cheapest priority program to speed up your airport trip. Travellers apply in person at an application centre, where you must present the necessary information, paperwork, and fingerprints. In addition, you’ll need an unexpired US government-issued picture identification and proof of citizenship, such as a passport or a driver’s license and birth certificate, to qualify for TSA PreCheck.
Once you’ve been accepted, you’ll be given a designated known traveller number, which you can use to book domestic flights. When flying from a domestic airport, it will display on your boarding pass and allow you to queue for expedited screening. At the time of filming this, TSA PreCheck costs $85 USD for a five-year application.
Global Entry is a step above that, as it offers expedited customs screening for international air travellers entering the United States and is valid for five years. In addition, because Global Entry members also get TSA PreCheck as part of their membership, it’s a no-brainer for many foreign visitors to apply for Global Entry and obtain both for only $15 more than TSA PreCheck alone. In Canada, Global Entry is called Nexus, and it’s a program that goes both ways for Canada-US borders. So if you’re a Canadian, get a Nexus pass and you’ll get all the perks of Global Entry and TSA PreCheck when in the USA. This is personally my favourite hack since it’s saved me hours over the past 3 years.
Many travel-focused or premium credit cards offer discounts that can be used to cover the cost of TSA PreCheck or Global Entry applications, which is how I avoided the $100 price.
Clear is a program that allows passengers to bypass security lines at more than 50 major airports and some sports stadiums. TSA does not run this program; instead, Alclear LLC, a private, publicly-traded company, does.
Clear members may go straight to the front of security lines in major airports by scanning their iris and boarding passes – a completely touchless process. Clear avoids the need for traditional documentation by relying on your eyes and face to confirm your identity. It converts these biometrics into an encrypted code unique to you and can be used for check-in validation.
Begin by going online or downloading the Clear mobile app. It should only take about five minutes to complete the process at any of the participating airport locations. You’ll then skip to the front of the regular security line or, if you have PreCheck, the front of the PreCheck queue.
Airside Mobile, a private company headed by former TSA personnel, has created a free app called Mobile Passport. It’s available on Apple iOS and also on Google Android, and it lets you use a separate, faster passport control line when visiting certain airports and ports. Rather than waiting in line to prove to a person, machine, or both that you are who you say you are, you use this app to send your information and a selfie to Customs and Border Protection. CPB will authorize you again to use the app and provide you with a QR code receipt to present on your phone, allowing you to bypass passport control by using a special lane.
Mobile Passport is now available at 27 airports and four cruise ship ports throughout the United States. With a few exceptions, such as Washington Dulles, LaGuardia, and Detroit at the time of recording this video, that is pretty much all of the busiest international airports in the US. Although the software is not difficult to use, you should download it ahead of time. I’ve rarely been in a passport control zone with a robust Wi-Fi or cell data signal anywhere in the world. Because the free version of the program only saves your information for four hours and lacks a document scanner, you’ll have to enter your information each time you travel manually. The premium version, Mobile Passport Plus, costs $15 per year if you travel frequently.